Biological Sciences

Professors Francisca Mutapi and Alexandra Rowe become Royal Society of Edinburgh Fellows

Professors Francisca Mutapi and Alexandra Rowe have been named as Royal Society of Edinburgh Fellows within the 2020 cohort.

Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Fellows are leading thinkers and experts from Scotland and around the world, whose work has a significant impact on our nation.   

Professor Francisca Mutapi
Professor Francisca Mutapi

Professor Francisca Mutapi, Professor of Global Health, Infection and Immunity 

Francisca’s work on schistosomiasis has had an enormous impact on policy and practice, in particular for millions of children in Zimbabwe.  

Schistosomiasis is an infection caused by a parasitic worm that lives in fresh water in the tropics. 

Those who have been infected for a long time may experience liver damage, kidney failure, infertility, or bladder cancer. In children, it can cause poor growth and learning difficulty. 

By integrating a highly successful programme of fieldwork spanning over 20 years, with laboratory and quantitative work, her group has been able to conduct high impact research on schistosomiasis. 

The work has been translated to policy, by the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe, and has led to the current 5-year National Schistosome Control Programme in Zimbabwe. 

Francisca is also Deputy Director of the Tackling Infections to Benefit Africa (TIBA) Partnership, a multidisciplinary research programme that is seeking new solutions to neglected tropical diseases and emerging epidemics in Africa. 


For me, as I suspect is the case with most of the Fellows, to be elected to the RSE is not the end of a process, it is a beginning. This is an opportunity for us build on the RSE’s influential platform for bettering the current and future human condition. 

Francisca MutapiProfessor of Global Health, Infection and Immunity 
Professor Alex Rowe
Professor Alex Rowe

Professor Alexandra Rowe, Professor of Molecular Medicine  

Alex’s research investigates why malaria disease severity differs between individuals. 

Although approximately half a million African children die from malaria every year, many more suffer milder, non-life threatening forms of the disease. 

It is unclear if variation in disease severity is due to the properties of malaria parasites themselves, differences in their human hosts, or a combination of the two. 

Alex’s research has identified host factors such as blood groups that influence risk of life-threatening malaria. For example, individuals with blood group O are less susceptible to severe disease. 

She has also identified parasite virulence factors, such as binding of infected red blood cells to uninfected red blood cells, known as rosetting, which is strongly associated with severe malaria. 

Alex’s lab investigates how the parasites to cause red blood cells to stick together. Gaining a better understanding of this process may help to develop new treatments to prevent malaria deaths. 

One of the hallmarks of Alex’s research has been combining laboratory and field studies, with a strong emphasis on mentoring, training and collaboration with scientists in malarious countries.  


I am delighted and honoured to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and I look forward to contributing to its mission of 'knowledge made useful’.

Alexandra Rowe,  Professor of Molecular Medicine  

RSE Fellows 

A total of 64 fellows were elected to join the current roll of around 1600 fellows representing the full range of physical and life sciences, arts, humanities, social sciences, education, professions, industry, business and public life. 

Fellows, who give of their time freely, play a fundamental role in enabling the RSE to deliver its mission ‘Knowledge Made Useful’, contributing to the cultural, economic and social well-being of Scotland and the wider world. 

Related Links 

Francisca Mutapi


Herald Scotland - ‘Agenda: Harnessing the power of collective thinking’ by Francisca Mutapi  

Alexandra Rowe  

RSE 2020 Fellows